I know we're a little late folks, but blame it on the rain.
Voices from the South Side is back again with your smartest baseball minds and their thoughts on Chicago's "other" major-league team. This week, Thomas Barbee, Collin Whitchurch, and Chris Pennant talk about the recent spate of Sox injuries and the upcoming road trip for the Sox and Twins.
Now, if there are no more interruptions, it's time to talk Sox!
1. After having to deal with the playoff-desperate Blue Jays in back-to-back weeks, the Sox and Twins look a bit bedraggled as a road trip looms for both teams in the near future. Who has the tougher draw? and...
TB: The Twins have a much tougher schedule ahead of them. They're facing an O's team that's much better than their record and a Rays team fighting for the top of the division. The only real threat for the Sox are the Yankees—they should beat everyone else they play.
CW: I honestly think the Twins have the tougher schedule. Both the Orioles and Indians have proven to be teams itching to play spoilers and have a bunch of young players fighting for spots. Couple that with the fact that the Rays are incredibly tough at home and have proven they can win important games in their series in Boston, and I think they have it tougher.
The White Sox are playing the fading Yankees (who don't seem to be playing with any type of energy of a team looking to make a playoff run OR play spoiler) and the Royals. I know the Sox have struggled with the Royals this season, but they always seem to beat them in the clutch. I think, if the White Sox get it done against those two teams, that they will be able to go into Minnesota with a lot of confidence.
CP: The Twins have a rough time of it, as those four games against the Rays are staring them in the face. The three with Cleveland at the Jake won't be a cakewalk either, especially with Travis Hafner back from his season-long injury. Still, the Sox have those four with New York (in their last trip to Yankee Stadium) and the three with the Twins. So right now, you could flip a coin.
2. ...How many do the Sox need to win on their trip?
TB: If the White Sox go 10-6 in the last 16 games, they should clinch the division. This should be attainable since Ozzie's going to have his 1-3 starters pitching in key series games.
CW: Out of the 10 games, I think the Sox NEED to finish 5-5, but I think they CAN finish 6-4. As I said before, the Yankees aren't playing with any energy and I think that worst-case scenario is 2-2 vs. the Yankees, 2-1 vs. KC, and 1-2 vs. Minnesota, which adds up to 5-5. But I still think they can do better then that.
Then again, maybe I'm just way too optimistic.
CP: These two with the Tigers today are big, and the Sox have already won the first one. Past that, the Sox need a 7-3 road trip to have a few steps on Minnesota. 6-4 or 5-5 is more likely, but 7-3 would be absolutely huge. 3-1 with the Yankees, 2-1 (3-0), and then 2-1 against the Twins is very possible.
3. With Quentin down, Konerko out, and Crede off the radar, someone has to step up and carry the offense over these last two weeks. Will it be one guy, or will it be a carousel of heroes every night?
TB: It'll have to be a carousel of players, but Ken Griffey Jr. is the one guy that must step up now. He was the big-money player that Kenny Williams (and many Sox fans) have wanted for a long time, and he's got to step up and show his worth.
Brian Anderson is another guy that I think will be making the most of his at bats (if Ozzie could ever get over his man-crush on Dewayne Wise). Last, but not least, Thome and Pierzynski have to continue to provide their veteran leadership and timely hits as well.
CW: I think it's pretty clear that Jim Thome has stepped up his game immensely and is ready to carry this team down the stretch. No disrespect to Jermaine Dye, who has carried the team through a number of stretches throughout the season, but Thome looks poised to get in the playoffs.
He's hitting the ball to all fields, something he hasn't done a lot of this season. He's also hitting clutch home runs and racking up the RBI.
CP: I've always been in favor of the "revolving door" of heroes, but I see Jimmy T, JD, and (surprise, surprise) Juan Uribe really getting the big hits for the team down the stretch. Juan seems to have found a stance that works and Thome is mashing the ball right now.
4. Speaking of injuries, the White Sox website reported that both Quentin and Konerko were willing to get back out on the field before their injuries had fully healed. Do you agree with this strategy, or would you rather have them shut it down and get back to 100 percent?
TB: Especially in the case of Quentin, there is no way I'd let him play again unless he's 100 percent healthy. Considering the guy is just starting to reach his prime, the last thing you want is for him to suffer a more serious injury.
Let him get healthy first and then we'll talk. With Paulie, I could see Ozzie wanting to use him as a DH or pinch hitter in late-inning situations, but once again, I wouldn't chance it.
CW: It's not often that a team gets a chance to win a World Series, so when you do, you take it no matter the costs. You couldn't blame Konerko or Quentin if they wanted to shut it down for the sake of their career, but if they're willing to do whatever they can to make the playoffs and give the team a chance to win a World Series, you take it and run.
You have to play this year as if there is no next year, and that's exactly what Konerko and Quentin's mindsets are in making these decisions.
CP: As much as I'd like to see them back, it wouldn't be productive with CQ and Konerko at less than 100 percent. Carlos Quentin has a lot more seasons to win MVP awards and if he rests, he can be back for the postseason. So I would rather see them take the full time and get healthy. Besides, it's looking more and more like Paulie will be back for the final week of the regular season.
5. I picked 92 games to win the division when the season started. In your estimation, how many games are going to win the division now?
TB: I would say that 92 should still stand as the target number of wins, but even 90 could end up being enough to win the division.
CW: I honestly think it's going to be between 88-90 games. If you look at the schedule, say the White Sox go 5-5 on their road trip. That puts them at 86 wins with three games remaining; two of three from Cleveland and they're at 88 wins. If they improve that 5-5 mark by a few games it could hit 90, and if they're any worse then the 5-5 mark, they don't win the division.
CP: 91 is never a popular number. But taking into account the second Sox-Tigers game tonight, the Sox need to go 9-5 over these last 14 games. That puts them at 91 wins and a division crown.
Bonus: After last night's loss, the Toronto Blue Jays were 12 games over .500 and 5.5 games back of Boston for the Wild Card spot. Based on what you've seen this week, will the Blue Jays make the playoffs?
TB: If the Blue Jays had played this level of ball earlier, I would say yes, but like the Houston Astros in the NL, they're just trying to leap frog too many teams to stand a chance. The Red Sox have gotten their act together and the Rays would never fall off enough to allow either the Blue Jays or any other team catch them.
CW: The Blue Jays are a really fun team to watch. They're led by Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, and Adam Lind, and their pitching staff is unbelievable. Their chances to win the wild card are not horrible, but they must at least split the four-game series they have with the Red Sox at Fenway.
If they do that, they have the next nine games at home, including three against the Red Sox. If they take care of business on that home trip, they can do it. But it's also likely that they come down to earth sometime in the next couple of weeks.
CP: The Jays have the pitching and talent to be a force in the AL East year after year, and year after year, they tank midseason and take themselves out of it. The AL wild card is not as weak as the National League, where the white-hot Astros have played themselves back into playoff contention. So unfortunately for Toronto (and fortunately for the White Sox), there will not be October baseball in Canada.